The President of the French Council of Ministers (Briand) to the Secretary of State88


My Dear Mr. Hughes: At the moment of my departure for London, Mr. Herrick handed me your friendly telegram in regard to the difficulties which have arisen in the naval disarmament Committee in reference to the tonnage of capital ships which has been requested by the French Delegation.

You fear that the insistence upon the French request may result in preventing the agreement between the five Powers.

The wish of the French Government is to do everything compatible with the vital interests of France to reconcile our points of view.

As regards naval armament, it is not the offensive, but solely the defensive, point of view with which France is preoccupied.

With regard to the tonnage of capital ships—that is to say, ships of offense, which are the most costly—I have instructed our Delegates in the sense you desire. I am certain that I shall be sustained by my Parliament in this course.

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But so far as defensive ships are concerned (light cruisers, torpedo boats and submarines), it would be impossible for the French Government, without running counter to the vote of the Chambers, to accept reductions corresponding to those which we accept for capital ships subject to this formal reservation which you will certainly understand.

The dominating idea of the Washington Conference is the restriction of offensive and costly naval armaments. But I do not believe it to be any part of its program to restrict a nation which, like France, has a large extent of coasts and numerous distant colonies, in the means essential to its communications and security.

I am certain, my dear Mr. Hughes, that you will appreciate the effort of conciliation which we are making to respond to your request.

I beg you to accept my cordial remembrances and my ardent wish for the complete and striking success of the Conference over which you preside with such authority and brilliance.

  1. Handed to the Secretary of State by the French Ambassador Dec. 19.
  2. The translation here printed is taken from Conference on the Limitation of Armament, p. 458.